Opinion

Ski bum to ski bunny – a first trip to Whitewater breaks over a decade long drought

Last Monday, reporter Kirsten Hildebrand skied Whitewater for the first time since moving here over a decade ago. It was a super powdery day. - Dylan Henderson photo
Last Monday, reporter Kirsten Hildebrand skied Whitewater for the first time since moving here over a decade ago. It was a super powdery day.
— image credit: Dylan Henderson photo

It really is unfathomable that prior to March 3, I had lived in Nelson for 12 years and never skied at Whitewater.

Despite the world-class resort a short drive from town, I hadn’t skied for [quick calculator action required] 26 years. Gulp, I am getting old… er.

Growing up on the Prairies, four hours from the nearest mountain, I spent winters breaking cross-country ski trails across open fields. The pittance of snow sometimes barely covered stubble left behind from fall’s wheat harvest and the wind almost always blew -30 degrees in my scarf-covered face. Yay winter!

With my junior high school mates, I did make a couple treks to the Rocky Mountains for ski trips. I remember getting carsick on the bus then struggling with heavy gear and being sent down mountainsides without much instruction. I think I spent a lot of time in the lodge with hot chocolate and a deck of cards. I think – I am getting older and memories are a funny thing.

Regardless, my experiences with skiing didn’t inspire me to hit the slopes once moving here despite loving the volume of snow and balmy temperatures in which to enjoy it. Sledding with the kids, cross-country skiing and tromping around with borrowed snow shoes have been my only winter hobbies.

And I was content with that.

Until this winter when those words I’d often repeated as enthusiasts tried engaging me in powder talk — “I don’t ski” — started to seem ridiculously restrictive.

With my season-pass-holding Grade 6 son as inspiration, and people I’d arranged my ski-trip with holding me accountable, I made my way up to the hill that Monday morning a stomach full of butterflies.

I started getting truly excited as we turned off onto Whitewater Road. It was clearly busy because of the massive dump of new snow and promises of accumulating powder all day.

Whitewater staff were great in greeting me and helped me into gear graciously despite me mostly saying “I dunno” and three busloads of kids just funneling through their lobby. The rigmarole of getting geared up wasn’t that at all. Phewf!

I had planned to meet up with Whitewater Ski Team coach Dylan Henderson whose enthusiasm for skiing is motivating, to say the least. He was thrilled by what frustrated me, my complete inexperience on the hill.

Properly warmed up, we hit the chairlift — I didn’t take anyone out and we sailed up Silverking. Dylan passed me a hard candy, a savior in my dry-from-nerves mouth.

The coach explains his strategy in introducing me to the planks on my feet and helping me down my first run:

“My strategy... Well, as a ski coach I work from the ski up, focusing on ski performance first. First step is to get the natural performance out of the ski and get a real carving turn. Next is to link up your turns with some good timing and extension in the transition between turns. This is when we were able to move from the Green circle to the Blue square and get you skiing the steeps with confidence. With this accomplished we discussed getting ankle, knee and hip joints stacked up and moving through the turn. Exerting a force on the snowy world around us so that we are actively owning our experience rather than passively having forces applied against us.”

“Then we finished the morning with some tree skiing in the fresh powder!”

There’s that word again — powder. Being up there on the hill, I finally realized the true gift that everyone raves about. And I loved how Dylan kept my mind on assignments giving me little time to dwell on the steeps before me.

“Actively owning my experience” — yes, I did.

Next, it was lunch time!

Enamoured by Whitewater food for some time, earning my refuel at Fresh Tracks Café and toasting my first ski with a dear friend by my side was a treat in itself. While I’d been in the lodge at Whitewater many times, I finally felt part of the crowd finding a hook for my borrowed ski jacket and plopping my son’s loaner helmet and goggles on the table next to my veggie burger and beer.

Back out for the afternoon, my friend and I went up and down to our heart’s content and I even went up Summit chair and down Motherload a couple of times. So. Much. Fun.

When I finally left the hill at 4 p.m. take-out coffee and a cookie in hand, I was over the moon about the success of my day and looking forward to getting back on the slopes.

My reasons for not skiing in the 12 years I’ve lived here range from not having gear, having babies, no money, not knowing how, fear, being busy, not having a fashionable snowsuit….

But what it comes down to is whether or not I wanted to ski. If you want something, you can make it happen and the reasons you think hold you back disappear.

I am glad I finally wanted to enjoy Whitewater. I’d highly recommend it.

 

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